All 8 entries tagged Management

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July 07, 2016

The never ending cycle

This a completely different blog, to what I usually write. I came across an interesting concept today, which involves a combination of literally everything I have learnt so far this year. I have learnt that improving a company internally by itself is simply not enough. Optimising and improving manufacturing processes and products is simply not enough. As excellence models suggest, this optimisation should occur through the full product life cycle, from suppliers till the final end consumer. This consequently suggests that some form of knowledge sharing should occur. The customers will be able to give views and feedback on the kind of product they desire, and the sort of needs they require the product to fulfil. In the context of my reading, this involved the carbon footprint of the product. Sometimes manufacturing processes are optimised to reduce environmental impact, but what is not taken into account is the impact that the final product has, when it is in the hands of the consumer/customer. An example of this are the famous trucks of the United States, the guzzlers as they are so known. They were designed optimally, the manufacturing processes had very little environmental impact. But the final product exceeded all savings and reductions.

Reading further, this is what the Design for Six Sigma base of Design for the Environment is all about. It is about considering final use environmental impact as well during design stages. And what an important role knowledge sharing plays here in support. Information must be retrieved from as many stakeholders as possible. This involves first creating support mechanisms to generate the knowledge, and a review and analysis of this data to ensure reliability. The final stage involves application, which starts the cycle again, moving from an external to internal structure, where now the suppliers as well as people within the organisation can now share the generated information and apply it. And the never ending cycle moves on…

July 04, 2016

Let's preserve and protect our Earth

Throughout my life, I have only observed asset management to be considered from a financial perspective. Everyone around me always talks about how managing their assets increases their wealth, and is often confused with the modern term of wealth management. So for me, it took me by surprise when I came across the term asset management in this module. But all the categories discussed make sense, especially when I think about it from an engineering point of view, which I’m sure by now you are all aware is my previous background. It was sort of comforting to see that areas linked to the health and safety of employees, the security of employees, as well as environmental concerns were being considered as part of asset management.

I am a true believer that our earth and all its natural resources must be conserved, preserved and treasured. Due to rapid globalisation and urbanisation, our planet is being destroyed through atmospheric pollution, water contamination, deforestation, amongst others and natural causes. Living standards and the development of the human race has led to higher pressures on industry to produce to demand, increasing industrial waste and pollutants. These must be reduced in every way possible, in order to protect our earth and the natural resources it bears. Organisations today must therefore also include environmental management systems in their strategy. For the basic reader, this involves the removal or minimisation of as many sources of waste and pollution as possible. This could include carbon dioxide emissions, waste water, toxic chemicals, as well as intangibles such as noise pollution. One thing that I believe is a perception of the older generation, is that all such measures come at high costs to the business. In effect, this is true, as most measures require initial fairly large initial investments, and payback is not seen for a few years after. However, reduction of wastes actually involves improvement of processes, products and services, which means lower overheads and therefore savings to the cost of doing business. This is very simplified, but is the point that needs to get across to the world out there today.

Several standards have been implemented as a result of this, as can be seen in ISO 14001 and 50001. If we want to continue doing business on this earth, let us not use these standards as basic guidelines to follow, but actually believe in the principles that govern these standards and practice them. If we kill our earth and deplete all the natural resources available, there won’t be another earth for us to continue doing our business on.

save earth

Definitely a world of knowledge out there

Over the course of this year, I have been faced with several tools and techniques aimed at continuously improving organisations as a pathway to achieving sustainable excellence. Looking back, I cannot say that either of these have one specific focus, but they are all, individually, an integration of a broad spectrum of considerations. They all take into account several aspects related to a wide range of stakeholders. This, in effect, needs to be converted from an external view to the internal operations of the company, and is where I believe the topic of knowledge management must be appreciated. The most effective use of any tool or technique is when an entire group of people is knowledgeable, be it specialist or basic, to one strategic objective or vision. This will involve the generation of knowledge, the sharing of knowledge, the distribution of knowledge, and the application of knowledge. These are the founding principles of knowledge management, and should therefore be found at the heart of the organisation. How scarce this is in the real world out there. All the knowledge is available - take it, and make the most of it.

world of knowledge

Looking back at some of the tools, such as QFD, I constantly hear one phrase - “the voice of the customer”. I came across a similar topic under the branch of knowledge management which involves generation of knowledge about the customer, the target market, and through the process of feedback, customer preference. This relates to the production process, but can be applied to both service and manufacturing industries, and is what essentially a business is out there to achieve, and how it aims to survive. The sale of a particular service or product will only be rewarding if this customer knowledge has been passed through the knowledge cycle. This is a perfect example of how external views from stakeholders, in this context the customers, are converted into the product design.

I often come across the question of how knowledge management practices fit into the business strategy, and whether they are really useful or just perceived to be a waste of time. As in the example above, the same principles can be extended to: the processes of the business, the outgoing products of the business and the whole NPD cycle, the people who make up the organisation, and the assets of the organisation. With all these areas, knowledge is the key focus, without which, none of the business operations would happen, without which none of the businesses strategic objectives would be met. Without knowledge of the processes, core business functions may end up being dysfunctional, leading to several losses being incurred. Without knowledge of the product/service, customer’s needs will not be met, and the product may be classed as a fail. The knowledge embedded within the people of the organisation must be exploited in order for the business to function at maximum capacity and capability (the intellectual capital of the organisation). Which will then facilitate knowledge generation on the asset capability of the organisation, leading to better utilisation of all assets for greater rewards (not only financially, but who doesn’t like to know that the bank account is getting larger!)

June 12, 2016

What goes around.. Comes back around

I sat down to take a break from a very exhausting week, only to end up listening to one of my favourite songs - "What goes around.. comes around" by Justin Timberlake. What a title to sum up the end of my final module at WMG. The only thing I could think of was how something so small triggered so many other feelings inside me. It was a spark of creativity in my mind. Isn't this the sort of environment we have been learning to create? An environment where something is generated out of creativity and innovation, a significant portion of the topic of knowledge management.

So many companies out there are falling shy of their competitors by their lack of attention to innovate, perhaps due to the perception that this sort of competition is non-existent. But if they only care to look deeper into the minds of their people, their most valued assets, as well as their other physical assets, they will always see room for improvement. This is the theme that I have noticed having been subject to self-improvement over the last year. With the help of shared knowledge from my project supervisor as well as other practitioners in the field, I have been able to help my own family business better manage their assets and focus on the removal of waste in their manufacturing facility. This once again is a significant portion of the cycle of knowledge management. I could only help but relate this to the title of this entry - the knowledge that was generated and created could now be shared and distrubuted to better manage the assets of the firm. With how vast the range of assets can be, from health and safety to environmental management, these need to be supported with true leadership. Relationship-oriented leadership and transformational leadership are what I perceive to be a good combination of starting to form the necessary leadership characteristics to support adequate sustainable management.

From the point of view of many directors I have witnessed, their main focus is always on financial performance and obtaining physical assets. In my opinion, the greatest and most sustainable prospect is to utilise the knowledge management cycle, invest into people as their most valued asset, who can then drive the organisation towards better results, economically and socially.

June 07, 2016

An 'excellent' journey

I have nearly come to the end of my taught section of my master’s degree, and I must say, what a journey it has been. Not only in terms of friends and getting to where I am, but also in terms of what I have learnt. Sometimes I feel I have learnt more in the one year of doing my masters than I have my whole life. What a shocking thing to feel. Maybe it really is the environment in which I am learning. How knowledge is shared between friends and peers, as well as from experienced professionals and tutors.

I find myself linking things from everything I have learnt the whole year. Perhaps because the foundations of my learning are based on a very strong framework. I find myself linking design for six sigma to any situation where we deal with anticipation and prevention of risks and errors. This anticipation is evident in design for safety where it is absolutely crucial that no mistakes are made in regards to the safety of products. Another example is where we predict outcomes in order to try and remove any chances of negative outcomes after product launch, and incorporate the mechanisms for prevention in the design. In regards to knowledge management, this is only truly possible with adequate and reliable sharing, generation and evaluation of knowledge. Another example where this communication is needed is in the removal of wastes, as in the six sigma methodology. If wastes are noticed, but not communicated across to responsible managers, there is an evident lack of knowledge transfer in the organisation. Improving this will only result in more productivity and efficiency, leading to improved financial performance.

And once again, it always reverts to the very important role of leadership in governing, guiding and inspiring the rest of the organisation and others to achieve shared goals. In this case, it is the vision of a culture of learning, which is often regarded as a learning organisation. The learning never stops. It is a continuous cycle and there is always room for improvements and opportunities for learning, so the theory states. But practical cases suggest pretty much the same thing, so long as implementation is done correctly.

So how was I able to remember all this? I analyse this down to the very root in my opinion, that it is because I have been shown a different way of learning, a safe environment in which I feel comfortable to let my voice be heard. Somewhere I am able to learn from my colleagues with little/no judgement being passed. The experiences I have faced in this environment have led to a more relaxed way of learning, and hence transferring and sharing knowledge. Truly an ‘excellent’ journey.

June 02, 2016

So little knowledge for too many assets

One of the most common phrases spoken in the business world is "people are our greatest asset", a statement which, in my opinion, is never truly acted upon. The evidence points out that investment into people is often considered as a cost, and hence not truly implemented to the standard necessary.

Asset management has so many different definitions, all hovering around systematic activities and processes through which organisations optimally manage their physical assets and their associated performance. But who manages these assets? This task lies in the hands of the people within the organisations, with their own individual skill sets, combining together through teamwork and a shared understanding. This is the integration of adequate knowledge management to help support this. Knowledge management is the efficient handling of information and resources in the context of an organisation. Efficient, reliable management of this knowledge is necessary in order to be able to store and apply any generated information from anywhere in the organisation.

From my previous experiences, I usually find the majority of improvements to do with Asset Management in manufacturing (as an engineer) to have come from the operators/technicians and engineers themselves. They are the ones who experience problems and observe opportunities for improvements to processes and products as well. It is hence highly important that there is a channel and pathway mechanism in place for the transfer of this knowledge to other areas in the organisation. This knowledge front is often regarded as unimportant, and not enough emphasis placed on the benefits that this can provide to the organisation as a whole and to the individuals themselves. Taking note from Deming, this in effect will help break down barriers between departments and encourage two way communication, increasing effectiveness and productivity.

As Benjamin Franklin once stated: "An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest"..

October 31, 2015

It's not easy, but its worth it

3 weeks ago, I entered into a different universe, one where I started to appreciate the importance of achieving excellence for a sustainable future. I have grown up in a background and environment where financial results and financial incentives are most common; I now find myself having a completely different mind-set and approach to life. I am no longer interested in extrinsic rewards to motivate me and make me perform well. I am more interested in sustainable business approaches than the traditional profit and results based approaches. I feel that organisations should invest more into learning and invest more wisely on their internal resources: people are the ones that build and define an organisation, they are essentially an organisation's most important resource. Why? What happened? Where has this thinking come from? The urge to ensure that people all over the world are valued by creating an environment and culture of empowerment for the achievement of BOTH organisational and personal goals.

This is obviously and evidently not an easy feat to put into practice, but one that is more than worth it. I find myself, and others of my generation, the 'enablers' to developing a sustainable future. It is a system that will take years to develop and establish; through the use of effective leadership dynamic change is possible. Through my learning, I have realised that there are several excellence models out there, just like the EFQM model, that can assist and help alignment to strategies. There is a lot more focus on quality, processes and people, which to me sounds like the perfect criteria to target in order to increase sustainability.

I was introduced to a method by which an individual or organisation can figure out what their strengths are, and what their areas of improvement are - after all, we should never look at such areas as weaknesses. This confirmed my previous mind-set that I should only think positively about myself, and about my life - I have never liked to be someone who wasn't good at something, I would always try to better myself; this meant that I would be on a journey of continuous improvement in areas which are of interest to me.

This is the method of 'SELF-ASSESSMENT'. Through the practical demonstration by Chris on the RADAR method and self-assessment embedded within the EFQM Model methodology, I have come to terms with and finally agree that this is the better method of assessing compared to traditional auditing. As mentioned by several of my colleagues, auditing in many instances leads to a company or team putting on a 'show' for the days of inspection. However, why not start putting on this 'show' and transforming the workplace into a permanent showroom. Self-assessment is tricky to come to terms with - where to benchmark and where do we relate what we see physically to the best/good practices out there. I feel that as this year progresses, I will not be put off by the difficulty that self-assessment seems to behold. I will continue to assess my progress and track where I want to be, where I am, and where I felt I should be. If I can master this for myself, I can then be in a position where I can lead by example and transfer my knowledge and experience to the organisational world.

It's not easy, but I do strongly feel it is worth it...

October 15, 2015

Curiosity in all aspects – the secret to greater creativity

I find myself struggling to find what to blog about, having never been in this situation and environment before. Having always kept my thoughts to myself, I figured this was my chance to explore, find a new sense of creative thinking - introduce a new practice and turn it into a natural habit for reflection. What I learnt is that I need to drive myself to explore deeper, take risks and be more confident in stepping out of my comfort zone. This will help creativity and innovation, a fundamental key to success.

A concept which I had never thought about before, one which I feel is worth sharing, is that there is no currently realistic chance of us being able to manage and control time: everything we do is merely an adaptation of our own situations to fit the time available - managing ourselves appropriately is essential. To successfully apply this, we must differentiate between what is of urgency and what is of importance.

Mind-mapping is a unique tool which can help development and increase performance, whilst also assisting us in managing our time efficiently. It enables a pathway to start developing thoughts and ideas, from which these ideas can be organised and priorities given. It allows easier communication to flow between ideas and logical thinking. It also suggests where to put an end to the throught process, a link to managing our time adequately - the potential of the human mind is limitless, and so limiting a particular exercise due to a time constraint is useful to prevent us exploring more than is required.

A shocking concern which I felt to add here, directly respective of the modern era, is the expulsion of creativity from the young, developing mind, by the current education systems. Sticking to all the rules stops the human mind from exploring and stepping out of what is deemed necessary for a grade/mark to be obtained. How this can be changed, and how the change, if any, will determine better and brighter futures is a question that will probably never be answered...

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